Kap: Hoyer, Cubs may have struck gold with Almora


Kap: Hoyer, Cubs may have struck gold with Almora

A journey of a 1,000 miles starts with one step or one pick if youre a Cubs fan. Theo Epstein, along with the rest of the Cubs front office, took that step on Monday by selecting 18-year-old outfielder Albert Almora with the sixth-overall pick in the MLB draft.

Almora, a senior out of Hialeah Gardens Mater Academy in Hialeah, Fla. was the first pick on a long road to recovery for Theo and company. Almora proved to Cubs management that he was worthy of their confidence in a number of ways. In his senior season he hit .603 with six home runs, 34 RBIs, 24 stolen bases and only struck out three times in 87 plate appearances. Almora has been a starter on the varsity team since eighth grade and has always been mature beyond his years.

But Almoras accolades do not stop at the high school level. He has been a member of Team USAs 18 and under squad for a number of years where he won five gold medals. Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer are not the only ones who saw potential in Almora. Baseball America ranked him the No. 2 outfielder, No. 3 high school player and No. 1 defensive high school player in this years draft.

Almora is a slender 6-foot-2, 172-pound teenager who has yet to fill out his frame. This is exactly the high-ceiling type player the Cubs were in search of coming into the draft. Almora has shown average speed and an above average arm and he makes superb reads in the outfield. His precise routes to the ball and ability to react on contact help make up for his average speed and allow him to cover good ground in center field. His throwing mechanics are well polished giving him above average accuracy. Scouts say that Almora has a professional approach at the plate which is rare for a high school player. That approach and above average bat speed give the slender teen surprising power.

Obviously, Almora is only 18 so he has a good amount of time and growth before we can even think of him as an everyday possibility at Wrigley Field but he is the type of athlete and personality Theo wants to build the future around. Almora is widely known for his work ethic which is something Epstein and Hoyer have been known to look for in addition to raw talent. They have a proven track record when it comes to drafting this type of athlete with past successes in Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, and Jonathan Papelbon.

Almora also possess the type of intelligence Cubs management is looking for. He is a heady player on the field and has a 4.1 GPA in the classroom. The dynamic duo has a tendency of spending their first-round picks on college players, so for them to pull the trigger on this high schooler is a credit to both his maturity of character and ability.

When asked about Almora Hoyer said, in terms of the morals that he carries with himself every day, the work ethic, whats important to Albert Almora, certainly those are things that appeal to us. We felt this kid was going to get the absolute best out of his ability. Competing was important to him. Winning was important to him. Being a great teammate was important to him. Combine that with the history that we have and the knowledge that our scouts have of him and he really checked all the boxes.

There are few drawbacks to this pick other than a big leg kick and some moving parts to his swing, but he makes them work to his advantage. Although projected first overall pick Mark Appel fell down the board all the way to eight and became an option, this was exactly the type of move the Cubs organization needed to make in the early stages of rebuilding.
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Joe Musso contributed to this article.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident:

Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak


Cue Chelsea Dagger: Blackhawks blow out Capitals to snap eight-game losing streak

Win one game.

That was Joel Quenneville’s message during the Blackhawks’ eight-game losing streak, which finally came to an end on Saturday night.

How about a 7-1 victory over the Washington Capitals on home ice for a streak-breaker? Now that’s more like it.

Prior to Saturday, the Blackhawks hadn’t recorded a win in February — or a win at the United Center since Jan. 12. 

Though the Blackhawks will likely miss the playoffs for the first time since Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane were rookies, a blowout win over the leaders of the Metropolitan Division Capitals had to have felt great.

"It’s a nice way to get over the hump," Toews said. "Sometimes you might just win a 2-1 game or just kind of grind it out, but it was nice for us to fill the net the way we did tonight."

Added Joel Quenneville, "Certainly feels 100 times better than coming in and trying to explain how we had a lead and were unable to sustain it. The complete 60 minutes, three periods the right way, more consistency in our game, way more pace than we’ve seen recently, composure with the puck, shooting around the net. It was fun but that’s one. Let’s see how we respond to this because there’s a lot of hockey left."

The Blackhawks are 25-26-8 with 58 points, and are 11 points out the final wild card spot, currently held by the Minnesota Wild.

Among the highlights:

— Seven different Blackhawks scored: Toews, Kane, Alex DeBrincat, Brandon Saad, Artem Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz, Ryan Hartman

— The Blackhawks are 74-6-4 in the regular season in which Kane and Toews both record a goal — and 41-0-0 in their last 41 games, according to NBC Sports Chicago stats guru Chris Kamka.

— Kane registered career assist No. 500, becoming the sixth Blackhawk with 500 or more. Kane is also the seventh U.S.-born player with 300-plus goals and 500-plus assists, joining Mike Modano, Keith Tkachuk, Jeremy Roenick, Pat LaFontaine, Joe Mullen and Phil Housley, according to Kamka.

"You think about the amount of great Americans that have played the game, how many players actually play hockey in the United States... Growing up all I wanted to do was play hockey," Kane said. "That means a lot, especially when you talk about American-born players."

— DeBrincat's 22nd goal of the season has him tied for the rookie-lead with Tampa Bay Lightning's Yanni Gourde. DeBrincat and Kane also lead the Blackhawks with 22 goals.